WVU vs. TCU Preview

By Mike Atkinson
Kevin Jairaj- US PRESSWIRE

On Oct. 20 in Morgantown, W.V., there was a buzz in the air. The #17 West Virginia Mountaineers were set to host the #4 Kansas State Wildcats, the highest ranked team the Mountaineers had faced since #3 Virginia Tech came to town in 2005. The environment around campus was insane.

The Mountaineers lost the game in a blowout. The offense couldn’t get going, the defense rolled over and quit at the end of the game and the best thing the Mountaineer fans could take from the game was the fireworks show at halftime.

That loss was the Mountaineer’s second on the season. Now, they face the Texas Christian Horned Frogs, again in Morgantown. This game will decide the fate of the 2012 Mountaineers. A loss here would strike down any hopes of a BCS bowl bid, and for a team ranked preseason number 11, one would have to say that is a gross underachievement.

What to watch for:

1) TCU lost its starting QB Casey Pachal early in the season after he was arrested for a DWI, and suspended indefinitely. He ultimately left the school altogether. Then, last week, TCU may have lost backup QB Trevone Boykin to a knee injury.

I’ve heard reports saying he will be playing against the Mountaineers and I’ve also heard reports saying he will not be playing against the Mountaineers, so I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Either way, this is a key focal point in this game. The Mountaineers have been terrible on defense the past few weeks, allowing more passing yards than any other team in the country. They can use all the help they can get.

TCU’s third-string QB is a true freshman by the name of Tyler Matthews. He has not taken a snap in a game all season.

Now before you Mountaineer fans get too excited at home, let’s remember that the defense let Maryland Terrapins true freshman backup QB Perry Hills throw for 305 yards and 3 TDs earlier in the season. Hills was only named the starter after C.J. Brown was injured before even playing a game.

I’ll be curious to see if the injury will affect TCU’s game plan, as the one thing the Mountaineer defense seems to be able to do is stop the run.

2) The second thing I’m going to be watching is how the Mountaineer defense responds coming off of a bye week. It will be interesting to see if it shows any improvements from the weak performances it turned out in the last few weeks. Apparently defense was a heavy focus for the Mountaineers during the bye week, so we’ll see if that paid off.

TCU comes into the game with the 53rd total offense in the country. The Mountaineer defense let the 112th ranked KSU passing attack throw for 400 yards, so they must find a way to improve.

Key Player to Watch:

WVU QB Geno Smith is the player to watch in this game. Smith was a Heisman front-runner early in the season and has since fallen out of favor after his two uncharacteristic performances in the losses.

I still believe the Mountaineer defense will allow TCU’s backup QB to throw for a large amount of yardage and TDs. With that being said, Smith is going to have to get back in the routine of outscoring everyone he plays.

In the beginning of the season, Smith and the offense won games in shootouts, throwing for four or more TD passes a game.

If the Mountaineers expect to win and salvage their season, Smith needs to return to form and put up the big numbers he had at the beginning of the season.

My Prediction:

The Mountaineers have not looked strong in the past few weeks. Losing two consecutive games can be devastating for the morale of a team.

However, I think the Mountaineers will turn things around with this game. They have proven they can play great football and I think they will be fired up after losing two straight.

Both of the losses they took were at the hands of now-ranked teams. One of the teams is number two in the country, and barring a collapse, heading to the national championship. TCU will be a slightly easier opponent.

The defenses the Mountaineers have faced have been stellar, limiting the Mountaineer offense to only a few TDs per game. I just don’t see Geno Smith getting shut down three straight weeks. The offense will return to form, outscoring TCU.

Mountaineers win in a shootout 42-35.


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